cost of speech

A teacher in NJ will lose her job because she wrote on her Facebook page “i’m not a teacher – i’m a warden for future criminals”.

Oh my.

I’m not entirely certain that the teacher should lose her job.  But I am certain that the teacher has made a huge mistake that shows lack of maturity.  She seems to not understand the difference between “public” and “private” discourse – something I talk to my college freshmen students about on the first day of classes.  And these days, my friends, it’s all public.

There is no such thing as FREE speech anywhere any time.  You will pay for what you say and write one way or another.  You might not go to jail, but you will have to defend what you say and deal with the consequences of your words.

I’m on Facebook.  And I blog.  Before I click “post” or “publish,” I ask myself – “Who will be reading this?”  If there’s anything that may offend my colleagues (who are my Facebook friends) or students in general (even though I try not to be Facebook friends with my current students, many of my former students can indeed see my postings), I think twice.  Although I am sure I’ve posted/published things that were less than diplomatic, I’m very aware of my audience and try to exercise discretion  (Isn’t “audience” the first thing all writing teachers teach students?)

We’re teachers.  Sometimes we deal with some really unreasonable students, parents, and situations.  We have the right to complain, sure.  But WHERE and HOW we complain will determine what our “right” to do so will cost us.  In the case of Ms. O’Brien, it may be her job.

Go ahead, complain. Why not?  But do it at the dinner table to your husband or wife.  Do it over coffee to your closest friends.  I would suggest that you don’t do it with colleagues, unless those  colleagues are also your  friends who will listen to you as a friend, not a colleague.

Let us be mindful of how and when we express ourselves.  Words are costly.  There is no FREE speech.


One thought on “cost of speech

  1. Great post! Totally agree that above all, the teacher acted without maturity. Everyone has a bad day at work every so often and is allowed to vent – but it’s sad that she didn’t have the foresight to think that some people might find her (rather distasteful) comment to be offensive..

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